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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Schools improve with charter neighbors

New York City charter schools help neighboring district schools improve, according to a new study that’s set to be published in Education Finance and Policy.

“The study finds that being closer to a charter school led to small increases in math and reading scores, boosts in reported student engagement and school safety, and fewer students being held back a grade,” reports Alex Zimmerman in Chalkbeat. Traditional public schools that share a building with a charter did the best.

District administrators may pick up ideas from nearby charters to compete for students, said Sarah Cordes, a professor at Temple University and the study’s author. 

The study compares elementary school performance before and after a new charter opened from 1996 to 2010.

A school within a half-mile of a charter school, for instance, saw significant bumps in math and reading scores — estimates that are boosted with greater numbers of nearby charter schools, and schools from “high quality” charter networks such as Success Academy or KIPP. Test score bumps at traditional public schools were even more pronounced in cases where they occupied the same buildings as charter schools — an arrangement that has drawn intense criticism from many educators and parents, and which often forces the schools to share resources like cafeteria and gym space.

“Parents reported significantly higher levels of student engagement, and those with children in co-located schools were less likely to describe their schools as unsafe,” writes Zimmerman, citing the study. “Teachers reported higher academic expectations and ‘more respect and cleanliness’ after a nearby charter school opened.”

District schools do lose some students to nearby charters, the study found. However, per-student spending rose by 9 percent for co-located district schools and 2 percent for those farther away from charter competition.

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